From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Canada Launches Hand-Washing Campaign to Cut Hospital Infections


A report from Canada in June reveals that doctors and nurses regularly skip the sink between patients, with a grim impact on the country’s record for hospital-acquired infections. According to Health Canada, these infections kill some 8,000 to 12,000 patients across the country every year, and cost the health system millions of dollars.

The Canadian Health Network points out that hands spread an estimated 80 percent of common infectious diseases like the common cold and flu, yet studies show less than half of hospital nurses and physicians clean their hands between patients. 

There are several new initiative for keeping patients safer from infection, and one is nationwide.


The Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) has announced a hand-hygiene campaign that aims to reduce patient infections by 10 to 30 percent in the next three years. Ten hospitals are participating in the pilot program.


The national push for cleanliness follows Vancouver‘s Clean Hands for Life program to teach front line medical workers how to wash their hands properly, according to an article about the Health Canada report in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Quebec is also trying to improve patient safety by encouraging better hand hygiene, and several other campaigns have begun in hospitals across the country.


A first step is making hand-washing more convenient for busy doctors and nurses, the newspaper reports, as the walk to a distant hand-washing station is a significant time waster when it is done many times a day.


Providing alcohol-based hand sanitizers represents another line of attack. Alcohol sanitizers are popular, the newspaper explains, and are quicker and just as effective as soaping up. And alcohol doesn’t dry out the skin as much as repeated washing with soap and water: doctors and nurses say wanting to keep their hands dry as one of the main reasons for skipping the sink.


The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) endorses the national hand-washing campaign. “You can barely walk 10 or 15 feet without seeing a hand-wash station," CMA president, Dr. Colin McMillan told the newspaper. "Everyone recognizes it’s important, but no one seems to know why they don’t do it."


The article points out that the want of hand hygiene is an old problem: Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis traced childbirth deaths in 1847 to doctors going straight from autopsies to the delivery room, without washing their hands in between.


Sources: The Canadian Patient Safety Institute; Canadian Health Network; Health Canada; Globe and Mail;